thoughtful | convergence

a place where ideas on culture, theology, history and politics meet

This and That (001)→

So here is today’s version of this and that. It is basically what is bouncing around inside my head. These are the products of books, podcasts, articles, and random thoughts as I go through life. Sometimes connected, but often not.

The Canvas Strategy – Tim Ferriss Podcast, guest Ryan Holiday

As I’m in the midst of a transition myself this was a great reminder about setting the stage for others to succeed. This mindset of service that is not degrading, but advancing both yourself and others really resonates with me as something I’ve tried to do, but never really heard articulated quite like this.

Find canvases on which others can paint

King of Kings – Hardcore History with Dan Carlin

If you are interested in the narratives that make up human history then you should listen to these podcasts.

This one is especially relevant for me as we’ve just moved back from the Near East and the “ghost cities” he talks about were just down the road from what was home a few days ago. These cities that were once marvels of the ancient world, now are just piles of dust, the poppies emerging from the sand to mark where they once stood.

The peoples he talks about (Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Medes) are still there and some are still in the fight for survival. As Dan says, they are essentially still yelling “we’re still here!” even after having experienced genocide (relevant in the 5th-6th c. BC and in the 21st c. AD!)

Religious Pluralism, Globalization, and World Politics – Thomas Banchoff, editor 

I started this book again while we were traveling and really benefited from the first chapter by Thomas Banchoff that sets the stage for the remainder of the book.

Among other themes he points out, one that was especially relevant was the rise of the international human rights scheme. The ability for people to say “we are being slaughtered, but we’re still here!” before the entire world. It is amazing to think about the way the world has changed, the fundamental rights that we grant to an individual, these were almost unheard of in previous centuries.

 

First-Time Dad by John Fuller

I wrote recently on the idea that Fathers Matter.


In First-Time Dad, John Fuller provides some helpful reflections, ideas, and insights for guys about to start this incredible journey of fatherhood.

This book is not a “how-to” of being a dad. Nor is it a book on theory of parenting. It’s not an exposition of the theme from scripture. It’s not even exactly an advice book.

The best way I can think to describe it is like the conversations a young guy would have with an older, experienced dad at a coffee shop over the course of a few Saturday mornings.

Imagine the conversations you would have if you sat down and asked about:

“What expectations should I have?”

“What is fatherhood all about?”

“How do I balance time and priorities?”

“How will the baby change our family?”

“How do I love my wife and my baby’s mother?”

“What if it’s a boy? What if it’s a girl?”

Plus a few more questions…

That’s what this book is. It’s thoughtful reflections on topics like these. It’s full of great ideas and tips. It’s not a how-to book though, but a book of ideas, questions to ask, ways to think.

It was a helpful book to read in the weeks leading up to fatherhood and in the weeks since.

If you are about to become a father this would be a great book to pick up and mull over. If you know someone who is about to start that journey, this is a great gift that you could share with them.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.

Thoughts on 2 Months of Fatherhood

As I’m writing now, celebrating two months of fatherhood, with little Justus sitting next to me and talking away, I can say that I absolutely love being a dad. It’s so exciting to see a little person growing up in front of my eyes. I’m excited for the role I will play in his life.

Yet, maybe, just as much, I’m excited for the role that he will play in my life.

Becoming a father has changed a lot of things in life. Mostly, it has changed them for the better. It’s challenged me to be more intentional with my time, with my decisions, with my energy.

It’s forced me to be more intentional about caring for my wife and taking care of the issues around us. It’s not just me that it affects. It’s not just my wife, a grown adult, who, though looking to me for leadership, is fully capable of caring for herself, but a baby who is entirely dependent on our care.

I can’t say that I’ve responded well to all of these adjustments. It is causing me to grow though. I’ve been incredibly blessed with a wife who is an incredible mother. Also, I’ve been blessed with a son who has been extremely flexible and relatively easy.

Even so – I know that I long to be a dad who is a picture of loving leadership to my son. He is watching me.

For Father’s Day, I was given an awesome reminder of the responsibility that I have in being a father.

It came in an incredible picture of little Justus and the words of Rodney Atkins.

Photo Jun 18, 11 36 53 PM

In the lead-up to Father’s Day this past weekend, there was some insightful commentary on the role of Father’s in American culture today.

I’ll not comment extensively on it, but I’ll include the links below.

The fundamental conclusion:

Fathers matter.

This is a statement of massive importance.

Here are some links for further reflection on fathers. Also, be on the lookout for a review of John Fuller’s “First Time Dad” – coming soon.

John Stonestreet: The Good Dad http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/25378
Eric Metaxas: What it Means to be a Man http://www.breakpoint.org/bpcommentaries/breakpoint-commentaries-archive/entry/13/25389
Albert Mohler: Father’s Day Demonstrates Cultural Confusion http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/06/16/the-briefing-06-16-14/
Janice Shaw Crouse: New Research Reminds Us Why Fathers Matter http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/12/crouse-whats-different-about-dads/ 

A Godward Heart by John Piper


A Godward Heart is intended in some sense to be a devotional book. In reading a few other reviews I’ve seen criticisms that it doesn’t really succeed on that front.

In some ways I can see why people would say that.

It does not follow the line of traditional devotional books in walking through a text or leaving you with a simple boiled down truth to guide your day. I’ve never been a big fan of those books, though there’s nothing wrong with those. They are many times incredibly helpful.

A Godward Heart does have a little bit of a different feel. The book is a collection of 50 short chapters designed to draw your thoughts to “treasuring the God who loves you.” They are short essays on a whole host of topics from how Christians should vote, to the question of “does God lie?”, to how to love neighbors of other faiths, to the concept of hero-worship and the “celebrity pastor.”

He also walks through a few challenging or thought provoking scripture passages like Galatians 4:18, 1 Chronicles 10, Zephaniah 3, Psalm 96:7, and more. Not exactly the most common devotional passages.

The book would best be utilized as a quick read to set your mind thinking for the day. These short “meditations” are useful for just that – meditating. The are food for thought. Not a snack for quick consumption, but something that will set you going for hours throughout the day.

If you’re familiar with John Piper’s work you’ll know that his hallmark is drawing people into big thoughts about God. He is gifted at drawing people to delight in God, who he is and what he has done.

If you are looking for that, then you’ll find much here.

So here are my words about what the book is about or you can listen to the author explain for himself:

DISCLAIMER: I received a free evaluation copy of this book. I did not receive any monetary payment nor was I required to write a positive review. I hope my comments about the book will help you evaluate whether or not the book is worth purchasing and reading.

Who do you know?

Just last week I finished up reading Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think by John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed. The book  is not new. It has been around since 2007/2008.

In short, it’s based on the Gallup World Poll data and is one of the largest data collection surveys in history. The goal is to let people speak for themselves, rather than the more typical portrayal that is given by pundits or pop culture. There’s a lot of value in it. So I’d commend it to you as a starting point for reflection and discussions.

But what I really wanted to get at it is something more basic than what’s in the book. I guess, in some sense, it is a replacement for the book. Rather than having some massive study representative of billions of people tell you what the world thinks, my question is this:

Who do you know? What do they think? 

There are many perceived conflicts in the world. Whether along religious lines or political or social issues or even theological issues, there are a whole host of opportunities to find some group of people with whom you are at odds.

I’m in no way dismissing the importance of any of these stands. Oftentimes disagreements are truly over serious issues. There are many weighty debates. Not every dispute is petty trifling. They often emerge because people hold sincere beliefs. They stand for something.

But I wonder what we know of those on the other side?

Or, as I asked above, who do you know?

Have you ever spent time with those with whom you disagree? Have you sat down for a conversation? Not a debate, but just talked about life? Have you ever “loved your neighbor” (to put it in Biblical terms)?

We can start by reading a book – to tell us “what a billion Muslims really think” – but maybe, just maybe, we’d all be better off we knew what even just one person thought.

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